Ely bear researcher says he'll be sidelined without DNR research permit

  • Article by: TONY KENNEDY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 28, 2014 - 12:28 AM

Rogers plans to appeal after judge backed pulling permit.

Lynn Rogers, Minnesota’s embattled bear researcher, said Tuesday that his internationally popular den-cam video and the bear socialization studies he conducts might come to a halt as a result of a judge’s ruling in his long-running battle with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Chief Administrative Law Judge Tammy Pust recommended Tuesday that the DNR stick to its decision to deny the renewal of Rogers’ state research permit.

Pust sided with the agency’s concerns that Rogers’ practice of food-conditioning and habituating about 50 bears in the Ely area has created a public danger. “The vast majority of wildlife management professionals agree that the presence of habituated bears increases the risk of harm to the public,” Pust wrote.

The judge cited testimony from a two-week hearing in March, when witnesses described collared and uncollared bears in the Ely area engaging in unnatural behaviors, such as failing to startle when confronted by loud noises or nipping and slapping at people unable to provide them with food.

Rogers, who has built an international following for his $1 million-plus research center, said he will appeal. He said that the loss of his research permit would strip him of the ability to track bears with radio collars and that would undercut other aspects of his work.

Rogers said in an interview that the judge had many positive things to say about his research, including special praise for the streaming live shots of the animals in their winter homes. The “den cams,” which included last year’s YouTube sensation of a black bear named Lily giving birth, have been beneficial to the scientific community as well as the public, the judge wrote.

But Rogers said he needs radio collars to find the bears in the summer and “den cams” to view them during hibernation without disruption — two core techniques that he won’t be allowed to resume without a permit.

“This is not good for bears, people or the state,” Rogers said. “This decision was not in the public interest.”

Pust’s ruling takes the form of a recommendation, which will be reviewed by the DNR. Rogers said that if the DNR wins this time, he doesn’t think the agency will ever grant him a permit.

What’s next

DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen said the agency has assigned Kent Lokkesmoe, an “impartial” manager in the agency’s operations services division, to make a final decision in the case. DNR staff members first rejected Rogers’ application for a permit renewal last June. Lokkesmoe will be advised by a lawyer from the state attorney general’s office, Niskanen said. A ruling is expected by early September.

A key issue was whether Rogers was taking bears into his possession, as the DNR claimed. Rogers argued that he does not exercise sufficient control over the bears to constitute “possession” and therefore is not required to have a permit.

The judge sided with the DNR on that question, saying the collars allowed Rogers to access bears in a way that no other Minnesotan enjoys. “Dr. Rogers exercises an intentional power to alter the bear’s natural freedom in at least one critical respect: the bear is no longer free to avoid humans,” the judge wrote. “It loses its natural ability to be left alone.”

Pust rejected the DNR’s reasoning on another point — that Rogers didn’t deserve renewal of the permit because he hadn’t produced peer-reviewed, scientific studies.

Rogers’ conduct questioned

But she said denial of the permit was supported by videotape that showed “unprofessional conduct” by Rogers with research bears. In one video, a bear is made to appear to “dance” by being offered and then denied food rewards. In a second video, Rogers is seen punching a bear in the face when it lunges at him after running out of food, the judge wrote.

Pust concluded that Rogers should still be allowed to feed bears and run field study courses for the public, including den cam footage he has already shot.

Pust also wrote that the already habituated bears will allow Rogers to continue to “walk with them, rest with them, talk to them, observe them and record data about them.”

  • related content

  • Lynn Rogers

  • “This is not good for bears, people or the state. This decision was not in the public interest.”Lynn Rogers, shown above in 2010 with a bear known as Brave Heart

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta 7 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Miami 5 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4 FINAL
Detroit - WP: J. Nathan 6
Minnesota 4 FINAL
Boston 5
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Toronto 4
Cincinnati 13 FINAL
Cleveland 2
Los Angeles 9 FINAL
Chicago WSox 6
Kansas City 3 FINAL
Seattle 0
Seattle 1 FINAL
Milwaukee 15
San Diego 3 FINAL
Arizona 3
NY Mets 8 FINAL
Washington 3
LA Angels 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 4
Colorado 0 Bottom 6th Inning
Texas 2
Oakland 2 Bottom 2nd Inning
San Francisco 0
Indiana 107 FINAL
Milwaukee 111
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Carolina 5
New Jersey 2 FINAL(OT)
Washington 3
Los Angeles 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 4 FINAL(OT)
Buffalo 3
Anaheim 3 FINAL(OT)
Boston 2
Nashville 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
San Jose 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
NY Rangers 5 FINAL
Ottawa 1
Florida 4 FINAL
Toronto 1
Montreal 2 3rd Prd 2:00
Winnipeg 5
Colorado 0 1st Prd :42
Vancouver 0
Wichita State 70 FINAL
Notre Dame 81
North Carolina 72 FINAL
Wisconsin 79
Evansville 89 2nd Half 0:14
Louisiana 80
West Virginia 15 1st Half 3:13
Kentucky 40
Xavier 8 1st Half 13:44
Arizona 10
St Johns 55 FINAL
Villanova 63
NC State 79 FINAL
Temple 80
Missouri 55 FINAL
Michigan 65
Oral Roberts 64 FINAL
Louisiana 65
Duquesne 39 FINAL
West Virginia 60
Ole Miss 70 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 82
Northern Colorado 26 1st Half 1:49
UCLA 37
St Marys-CA 32 1st Half 5:09
Sacramento St 23
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close